Raider Croker doesn't want Rapana to go

Jordan Rapana may be aqueezed out of the Raiders due to salary cap pressures.
Jordan Rapana may be aqueezed out of the Raiders due to salary cap pressures.

Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker says the pain of this year's grand final loss will drive him during the pre-season - and he hopes his backline mates are still there with him.

The Raiders face a battle to keep their backline together due to growing salary cap pressures.

With the budget at Canberra running tight, winger Jordan Rapana is considering a switch to rugby union to play for Japanese outfit Panasonic Wild Knights if an adequate deal at the Raiders can't be thrashed out.

Centre Joey Leilua could also be squeezed out, with Canterbury reportedly keen to lure him their way.

Five-eighth Jack Wighton is likely to stay if he can renegotiate his current contract.

Croker is well aware of the salary cap squeeze at the Raiders, but he hopes club management can work through it and keep the bulk of the grand final squad together.

The 29-year-old is particularly keen for Rapana to stay.

"It's frustrating. Rapa doesn't want to leave and the club doesn't want him to go either," Croker said.

"He's been such a big part of our club for a long time now. It's a tough one. Hopefully Rapa can work something out where he can look after himself.

"It's just a shame the salary cap has worked out that way.

"We haven't been that successful for the last couple of years, and then all of a sudden we make the grand final and we have salary cap pressure."

Croker said he was still processing the 14-8 grand final loss to the Roosters, and he hopes the pain will help drive his teammates during the pre-season.

"It's only been just over two weeks, so it still hasn't sunk in," Croker said.

"At the moment it's more disappointment than burning.

"I'm sure when we get back into pre-season that hunger and desire will kick right in, and you'll want to go that one step further.

"We were bitterly disappointed with the end result.

"When we get back into the pre-season, there'll be that fire in the belly to go one step further next season."

Australian Associated Press